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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gangster Rap, Writing, and the Liberatory Power of Anger


It was exactly the disruption of the cool invulnerable self that rap is so often conflated with and that DMX's early projects explore that made him what he was for me—a space of solace that simultaneously expressed and invoked my deepest feelings of almost overwhelming anger, sadness, and frustration. It is this access to excessive emotion and "the dark stuff" that keeps me writing in/on rap music. Someone else can write about the racial uplift of the socalled conscious rappers and their return to the West-African griot tradition of community building and activism through storytelling. It is important work and even relevant to the work that I do, but it is just not the story I want to tell. You see, it is this excessive, pornographic display of emotion and bodies and vulnerability that, to me, is at the heart of why we, as feminists, must engage the work of rap music. It gives us a space to talk about these things, particularly as Black people, particularly those of us who call ourselves women, particularly those of us who identify with a femme gender—because it is that pornographic excess that we are not meant to hold, not meant to wield, and definitely not meant to speak.

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